My hope is that young ladies are strong and realize their potential early and older women are an example of strength and fierceness for younger generations.
Strong, Confident, Amazing Women
It’s been a while since I’ve written anything like this. Years, actually. Fact: I used to love creative writing and stream of consciousness writing. Just ask my Honors English teacher. Blogging is different, especially in a niche like running, fitness, and coaching. There’s research, forming coherent thoughts, and editing and proofreading. Yes, yes, I edited and proofread this post… But sometimes I just want to write. Today is one of those times.
The post is called Be a Lady They Said, and it’s by far the most impactful summary of mixed messaging directed toward women that I have ever read. It was originally published in 2017 and yet it is still so relevant. The message transcends generations. I suggest you take a moment to read it. I’ll wait.
The Hypocrisy of Being a Lady
It’s a spot on, sad, and true commentary of literally every single message I’ve ever heard in my lifetime. And I haven’t even been around that long. Just this morning on my run with my friend, we were talking about how her elderly mother’s best friend was lamenting that she had gained 3 pounds over the holidays. She’s 82 years old. Eighty-freaking-two. And she’s worried about three pounds.
First of all, according to my friend, this woman works out three days a week. She’s as fit as a fiddle. She has a personal trainer and takes advantage of the Silver Sneakers program at another gym. Second, she’s in her 80s. No woman, EVER, should have to worry about gaining three pounds, let alone a woman in her 80s!! If I make it to my 80s, I’ll order a cheesecake and eat the whole damn thing, thankyouverymuch.
Which leads me to my next, and maybe most important, point. As I near middle age (what age is that, anyway?), I’m yet again becoming hyperaware of my body. I’m fighting the urge to care too much about it but it’s a daily battle. This will be an impossible feat, I know, but I’m trying my best to do what I can with what I have and maintain a positive outlook as my body begins to change yet again.
My Formative Years
I spent middle school engrossed with my body — as all middle schoolers do. I was overly concerned with thighs, tummies (suck it in!), and boobs (stick ’em out!), and I didn’t appreciate what I had. YM Magazine taught me about hair and makeup, and how to make myself look good.
High school was spent in much the same scenario, though by that time I felt more like a grownup than a middle schooler. Yet I wasn’t necessarily satisfied or proud of my body per se. I sometimes read Cosmo (Cosmopolitan) but more often I read Rolling Stone or Spin.
In college I finally owned myself and took pride in my looks. I no longer spent time worrying about cellulite and an imaginary belly. I was content with myself. When I got dressed, I went to classes and went on about my day without giving much thought to my body. The magazines I read were Time and Newsweek.
A Woman’s Body
As I grew into womanhood and started having babies, my body changed a lot once again. I gained a lot of weight during my first pregnancy, which made me physically uncomfortable while pregnant and then mentally uncomfortable after when I couldn’t fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes. My second pregnancy was much better. I remained active and running and easily shed the pregnancy weight afterward.
After my babies, I spent a lot of time working on me. I wanted to feel confident, healthy, and strong. I was really into running (still am) and my interest in eating healthy foods and complementing my running with weight training really blossomed. For about five years, I felt my absolute best. I blocked out the noise and just worked on me and I was really proud of how much I accomplished physically and mentally.
And now here I am, approaching middle age. Fluctuating hormones, trying to build muscle, and trying to make sure I’m fueling myself with appropriate foods and nutrients. It’s a constant battle to remain comfortable in my own skin. And I know I’m not alone.
But as I age I also gain wisdom. My body is the only body I’ll ever get. It’s my home. And it makes me sad, particularly after reading Be A Lady They Said, that I have spent (and continue to spend) so much time worrying about things that are unnecessary to worry about! How much time did I waste between middle school and now, picking apart my looks? Worried about what pant size I was wearing? Unhappy with my soft tummy?
So much time.
I’m not going to stand on a soapbox and tell all the ladies in my life they shouldn’t give a rip what anyone thinks of them or what size they wear. Because let’s face it, that’s completely unrealistic. We all care what someone thinks of us even though we sometimes don’t want to admit it. And I’m sure there’s a biological component to that — something along the lines of mating and procreating and that kinda thing. Just a hunch.
What I will say is this, and how it relates to health and fitness — our bodies are strong, ever-changing, and capable of taking us to amazing places and doing amazing things if we let them. My goal for my athletes, any gender, size, age, experience, and ability, is to have strong, capable bodies fueled well and functioning in a healthy way.
In my fitness classes, we work on having good form, challenging ourselves, and really having fun. And in my school athletics practices, we do the same! It doesn’t matter how tall you are, what your pant size is, or how old you are. If you’re moving and being active, that’s what’s important. Movement will keep you feeling good as you move through life. And I’m sure we can all agree that feeling good is the greatest feeling!
YOU Are A Lady
To my young athletes, may you recognize early on what a prize your body is and how hard it works for you each and every day. Fuel it with nutritious foods. Dress it in clothes that make you feel confident and happy. When you’re not feeling optimistic, remember all the miles you’ve run, the jumps you’ve taken, the twirls you’ve danced, the weights you’ve lifted. And remember how strong, beautiful, and amazing you are. YOU are a god damn lady.
To my older athletes, may your wisdom continue to move you through life with grace. May you remain centered and balanced, strong and confident. Wear the red lipstick, run your races, and be an amazing, strong example for the younger generations. For YOU, my friend, are a god damn lady.
Be A Lady They Said
I’m done worrying about things I can’t control, and you should be, too. Let’s promise to lift each other up and compliment each other’s shoes. And if you gain five pounds, no worries. And if you lose three, that’s cool, too. If you want to talk about it with me, that’s awesome. And if not, that’s fine, too. But don’t place your worth on weight, or looking too sexy (or not sexy enough), or having frizzy hair (raises hand).
You bet your ass I’ll be a lady. And so will you!
Did you have similar experiences?
What advice do you give your friends if (and when) body image come up?
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